• Text smaller
  • Text bigger

It’s one of the most powerful and advanced telescopes in the world – and it uses the fierce power of LUCIFER to capture images of planets outside our solar system and peer back toward the beginning of time.

The Large Binocular Telescope, or LBT, perched atop the Mount Graham International Observatory in southeastern Arizona, contains an immensely powerful tool that allows humans to observe the faintest and most distant objects in the heavens.

Those objects can be detected with the help of LUCIFER – a beastly set of super-cooled, near-infrared cameras also known as Large Binocular Telescope Near-infrared Utility with Camera and Integral Field Unit for Extragalactic Research.

The first camera, LUCIFER I, was fitted to the telescope in 2010. According to some reports, LUCIFER II is set to be installed as early as this year.

But why did scientists choose the widely known moniker for Satan when naming the instruments?

And what is the Vatican’s widely rumored involvement with LUCIFER?

The Large Binocular Telescope on Arizona's Mount Graham houses the LUCIFER infrared camera

Origins of ‘Lucifer’

WND contacted German astronomers at the Center for Astronomy of Heidelberg University who gave LUCIFER its diabolical name.

Professor and astronomer Andreas Quirrenbach, who also identified himself as a Catholic, told WND there’s a common misconception about the term “Lucifer.”

“The origin of the name is Latin, meaning ‘bearer of light,’” Quirrenbach said. “Whereas today most people may associate the name with a mythical fallen angel, who is also frequently identified with the devil, this is by no means the only and also not the original use of the name.

Andreas Quirrenbach

“In fact the designation ‘Lucifer’ was used in antiquity to designate the ‘morning star,’ i.e., the planet Venus when it is visible in the morning sky. This is the first use of the name, and so its occurrence in astronomy precedes any religious connotations.”

Quirrenbach also told WND, “[T]he only biblical connotation of ‘Lucifer’ is the astronomical reference to the morning star, which in turn is used to symbolize the Babylonian rulers (probably because the Babylonians identified constellations with gods). The downfall of the morning star is then a powerful picture for the end of Babylonian rule over Israel, as prophesied by Isaiah. Several authors have linked the name ‘Lucifer’ in the Bible to the devil, but this is due mostly to a misreading of the relevant biblical verses. However, these misreadings have propagated into folklore.”

The Bible makes its only mention of Lucifer in Isaiah 14:12: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!”

The book of Isaiah was written by the 8th century B.C. prophet Isaiah, who used the Hebrew term “heylel” in the Bible to refer to the angel who became Satan. It wasn’t until around 400 A.D. – more than 1,000 years later – that Jerome translated “heylel” as “Lucifer” in the Latin Vulgate.

Mark Biltz

Mark Biltz is founder of El Shaddai Ministries, a Hebrew roots resource and teaching ministry. He told WND that Quirrenbach’s argument is based on “false assumptions.”

“To begin, there are astronomical references in the Bible from 4,000 years ago,” Biltz explained. “Also, when you go from Hebrew to Latin to English, you do lose much in translation.”

Biltz confirmed that the literal translation of “heylel” is “morning star,” not Lucifer or even Venus, as Quirrenbach suggested. (Biltz noted that the Hebrew word for Venus is, in fact, Nogah.)

“Yet this [Isaiah 14:12] commentary does refer to Satan,” he explained. “In Hebrew, every letter is a picture, a word, a number, etc. You can have multiple valid meanings. So yes it can refer to the king of Babylon, and yes it can refer to Satan, and yes it can refer to a morning star.

“There are four layers of meaning: The peshat, which is the plain meaning of the text; the remez, which is a hint at another meaning; a drash, which can be allegorical; and sod, which means a hidden meaning. In the plain meaning of this text, it is referring to Satan.

“Venus is the morning star, and it refers to Yeshua/Jesus.”

Biltz also pointed to 2 Peter 1:19, which states, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:”

Biltz explained, “As in Isaiah, Satan wants to be like the most high, so he wants to be the day star but will never measure up. In context, it is plain that Isaiah is referring to Satan.”

The devil is in the details

Despite differences in theological interpretation regarding the name “Lucifer,” Quirrenbach told WND there is another reason the LUCIFER instruments were given their name.

“There is indeed a hidden dedication, which includes a pun that is far from obvious to outsiders, and which is related to the ‘popular’ identification of Lucifer with the devil,” he said.

Former Prime Minister Erwin Teufel

The lead institution for the construction of the LUCIFER spectrographs is the Observatory of the German State of Baden-Württemberg, which is now part of Heidelberg University, he explained. When a German partnership was formed to join Arizona’s Large Binocular Telescope project, funding became problematic. At that point, then-Prime Minister of Baden-Württemberg Erwin Teufel stepped in and ensured state funding was available.

“Now, as it happens, the name of this governor is Teufel, which is the German word for ‘devil,‘” Quirrenbach explained. “Again, absolutely no offense to anyone; this is a fairly common name in Germany. So to those familiar with the local state politics in Southwest Germany, it is plainly obvious that the two Lucifer instruments are named in honor of Teufel, who helped the state observatory become a member of the LBT.”

He added, “It’s as simple (or complicated, as you will) as that. Nobody thought of the possibility that anybody could take offense at the name ‘Lucifer.’ After all, even if you forget about the completely innocent connotations, as in ‘morning star’ or ‘Saint Lucifer of Sardinia’ and just think of evil Lucifer, there are other examples such as an NHL team called the ‘New Jersey Devils’ that nobody seems to mind.”

Technicians install LUCIFER device (Photo: University of Arizona)

Is the Vatican using the ‘power of LUCIFER’?

The Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope, or VATT, at the Mount Graham International Observatory

Numerous blogs and Internet postings claim the Vatican is part of the LUCIFER project and gave the device its devilish name.

In a twist of irony, LUCIFER’s neighbors are Catholic Jesuits at the Vatican’s observatory on Mount Graham. The neighboring Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope, or VATT, is manned by Jesuit astronomers.

The Vatican observatory’s website even features a video titled, “NASA and the Vatican’s infrared telescope called Lucifer.”

“[T]hey just happen to be our neighbors,” Quirrenbach said. “The Jesuit astronomers usually don’t use the LBT or its instruments, and they certainly were not involved in picking any names.”

However, Tom Horn, co-author of “Petrus Romanus: The Final Pope Is Here” and “Exo-Vaticana,” told WND he explored the Mount Graham International Observatory in September 2012.

“We did talk to the Jesuit who was on duty at VATT, and we found out that the Vatican Jesuit astronomers can apply to use the LUCIFER device just like anybody else can, and they do,” he said.

“When we were in the LBT, we asked the systems engineer, and he said he believes that the Jesuits have, and they certainly can. Any of the members of the consortium that make up the Mount Graham International Observatory have the same opportunities as any of the others do.”

Are scientists on Mount Graham hunting for aliens?

In a peculiar twist, Horn also said he spoke with a Jesuit at the Vatican observatory who told him astronomers there are searching for extraterrestrial intelligence and planets inside other solar systems.

“Even the Jesuit priest told us that’s the No. 1 thing that they’re all searching for right now: other Earth-like planets that might host extraterrestrial intelligence,” he said.

“When we went to the VATT, we wanted to talk to the Jesuits face to face. We were actually astonished at how both they and the LBT staff spoke very openly,” Horn said. “In fact, they told us that nobody in academia now any longer believes that humans are the only intelligent life on a planet in this galaxy – nobody, none, zero.

“They said that all academia now accepts the fact that it’s really just a matter of time having to do with us locating life on other planets – and not just organisms but intelligent life, and maybe intelligent life literally trillions of years ahead of us in terms of their evolution.

Horn added, “It feels like they even know something or they suspect something or they’re simply putting themselves in a position in case extraterrestrial life is discovered to be the go-to religious source. Beyond LUCIFER, that was really the deeper reason that we went to Mount Graham.”

The Vatican observatory did not return WND’s requests for comment about whether Jesuits had located alien life in deep space.

  • Text smaller
  • Text bigger
Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.